The video begins with a slow piano lead and an oddly placed dancing-bear mascot on a table in the midst of several people who were seemingly asleep.
The camera pans to reveal a trail of blood leading to a white bathtub, along with the head of the mascot and angel wings. This path leads to the artist’s head resting on the tub’s rim as his eyes stare lethargically upwards.
These are the opening shots of the moody R&B track “Will He” by George Miller, better known by the stage name ‘Joji’.
I interpreted this scene in a couple different ways.
The panda costume, accompanied by the eerie piano, represented his unorthodox approach to shock comedy from his past career and how that approach clashed with the typical comedic model.
Miller’s notoriety began a decade ago with the introduction of Filthy Frank and Pink Guy into the Youtube sphere. Both characters are abrasive, racist, disgusting, random, and outrageous. However, Miller’s content raked in millions of viewers within just two years.
The channel continued to gain traction and by the end of 2017, Miller had created another channel called ‘TVFilthyFrank’ that amassed over 6.5 million subscribers and had 10 videos above 15 million views. Miller also pioneering of the global dance trend ‘The Harlem Shake’, a Pink Guy album, which hit No. 70 on Billboard’s Hot 200, and a book called ‘Francis of the Filth’, among other accolades. But at the peak of his success, the output of content on his channel came to a screeching halt.
Miller issued a statement, which has since been deleted, that he was discontinuing his roles as Filthy Frank and Pink Guy. He explained that mental health issues brought on by the portrayal of the characters resulted in a lack of interest in maintaining the channel.
This phase in his career is represented by the sleeping people in the dancing panda’s background. They represent disinterest in his work as the bear, who represents his characters, to continue to put out content that seemingly makes him happy.
Unlike most entertainers fed up by their line of work, Miller took an unexpected turn.
The mascot’s head laying on the ground, accompanied by the trail of blood, represents Miller’s transition from Filthy Frank and Pink Guy to Joji. These characters literally bleed out of him as he lays in the bathtub where he can clean his image of grotesque immaturity.
The following scene shows him on a street with blotches of blood on a white T-shirt. This was meant to show that he’s emerged into a new career while carrying the lessons he’s learned from his previous characters. This emergence into being exclusively Joji continued with the EP ‘In Tongues’ which peaked at No. 58 on the Billboard Hot 200 chart.
Despite its success, I thought it was a bit sparse and repetitive. With just four new songs and one interlude, the Osaka, Japan native had no reason to have five songs that lacked vocal, instrumental, and stylistic variation. However, Miller would rebound from this project with much better content.
The 88Rising signee would drop the track ‘Yeah Right’ in May of 2018 which blended his melancholy sound with introspective lyrics that spoke to the unresolvable loneliness that many humans feel.
“It’s that point of self-hatred that you don’t mind. I remember dancing with a girl and I’m thinking ‘you don’t really care. Like ‘yeah right’,” Miller explained.
The song has over 19 million views on Youtube and climbing. Miller would continue his success with some more upbeat pop music going into the summer.
The half-Australian singer was featured four times on the indie label 88 Rising’s compilation album, ‘Head in the Clouds’. Despite personally feeling very underwhelmed by the album, Joji’s hook on the song ‘Midsummer Madness’ was clean, refreshing and set the tone perfectly. The track amassed over 21 million views on Youtube and would serve as the album’s lead single.
Shortly after Midsummer Madness started to pick up traction, Miller released the track ‘CAN’T GET OVER YOU’ which balanced his trademark dreary sound and alternative pop. The track would rack up over 10 million views on Youtube. A month later, he’d release the harrowing and heartbreaking track ‘SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK’ which would rack up nearly 28 million views in less than two-and-a-half months.
All of these tracks would lead up to Joji’s debut album: BALLADS1.
The project is a modest 12 tracks, with just two tracks exceeding four minutes. This makes for a runtime that isn’t overwhelming, unlike many contemporary R&B albums.
However, my distaste for the majority of the eight new tracks on the record definitely hurt the album’s enjoyability.
The tracks ‘I’LL SEE YOU IN 40’, ‘WANTED U’ and ‘NO FUN’ blended unoriginal and flat instrumentals with crude tinges of autotune that outline the main vocals.
‘WHY AM I STILL IN LA’ featuring rapper Shlohmo and producer D33J is almost unbearable to listen to. The injection of an electric guitar within the first 30 seconds is overwhelming that I had to change the song before Shlohmo’s verse. Despite how bad these tracks were, it’s good to see Joji experimenting to find a sound and to vary from his typical sound. But not all of the tracks were bad.
Joji and rapper/singer Trippie Redd’s collaboration ‘R.I.P’ pairs Joji’s mellow and floaty vocals with Redd’s trademark auto-crooning. While the songwriting is meager, the song itself is pleasant and relaxing. However, the standout song for me was the track ‘XNXX’.
The beat’s main melody, which resembles a windchime, is punctuated by the hum of a quiet bass and loosely placed hi-hats. The instrumental works perfectly with the smooth and mellow vocals Joji brings to the track.
This album, in my opinion, serves as a step in the right direction for Joji. However, he still has a lot to work on to experiment artistically while honing his sound. I have high hopes for Joji’s musical endeavors and believe that he is capable of creating some great music.